A new level of the absurd... Windows Vista requires more hardware resources than Microsoft's Windows for Supercomputers. Yet one operating system is designed to run on home computers while the other is aimed at the high-performance computing (HPC) market. And when it comes to the actual machines, there simply is no contest between the performance delivered by a commercially-available, off-the-shelf PC and a supercomputer. Super-Windows With Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 Microsoft made the first step into the high-performance computing market, the initial stage in a strategy set up to make HPC a mundane aspect of the commercial mainstream, in the company's vision. The availability of Windows HPC Server 2008 will be synonymous with the Redmond company gaining ground on parallel supercomputers and computer clusters. Parallel computing represents without a doubt the future direction of evolution for processor architectures, with even Microsoft anticipating the tailoring of the Windows client to multicore infrastructures. At this point in time the technology is light years away from general consumer implementation, with the market still struggling to move from 32-bit to 64-bit architectures. In fact, Windows 7, the successor of Windows Vista, will continue to be offered in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavors in 2010. But perhaps the biggest challenge of a scenario involving the mainstream adoption of multicore CPUs is related to the creation of an ecosystem of software made up of parallel programs that would integrate with the new processors. Windows HPC Server 2008 is the successor of Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, based on the 64-bit Windows Server 2008 and currently planned for the second half of 2008. With Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 already on a couple of the world's top 500 supercomputers (according to the Linpack benchmark) the Mitsubishi UFJ Securities Cluster Achieves 6.5 TFLOPS and the Microsoft Rainier Cluster Achieves 9.0 TFLOPS, Windows HPC Server 2008 is not a newcomer to the market. Surely a Windows for Supercomputers Cannot Run with Less Resources than Windows Vista... "Windows HPC Server 2008 is a two DVD package. The first DVD contains the setup for a 64-bit version of Windows Server 2008 that is restricted to an HPC workload, and the second DVD contains the Microsoft HPC Pack, which provides the additional interfaces, tools, and management infrastructure. The minimum hardware requirements for Windows HPC Server 2008 are similar to the hardware requirements for the x64-based version of the Windows Server 2008 Standard operating system. Windows HPC Server 2008 supports up to 64 GB of RAM," Microsoft revealed in Windows HPC Server 2008 Overview whitepaper. Windows HPC Server 2008 will integrate seamlessly with the following processors: AMD Opteron, AMD Athlon 64, Intel Xeon with Intel EM64T and Intel Pentium with Intel EM64T. But the limit of 64 GB of RAM is already an indication of the truly minimum system requirements of the operating system. The truth is that Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, more so after the availability of Vista SP1, share the same core and in this context the resources necessary for running the two operating systems are close. Windows HPC Server 2008 Minimum Hardware Requirements (according to Microsoft – emphasis added): "- CPU - x64 architecture computer with Intel Pentium or Xeon family processors with Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology (EM64T) processor architecture; AMD Opteron family processors; AMD Athlon 64 family processors; compatible processor(s) - RAM - 512 MB - Multiprocessor support - Windows HPC Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition support up to four processors per server. Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Edition supports up to eight processors per server. - Minimum Disk space for setup - 50 GB." Now, Microsoft failed to give indications on the processors, but the system requirements for Windows Server 2008 will clarify this aspect. However, outside of the 50 GB hard disk space, Windows HPC Server 2008 runs with just 512 MB of RAM. Yes, try doing that with Windows Vista. Because of the multiple flavors of Microsoft's latest Windows client, there is one Vista that can run on 512 RAM – the Home Basic SKU. Give Me More RAM, Vista Is Still Hungry! But even for Windows Vista Home Basic, 512 MB of RAM is equivalent with the recommended minimum hardware requirements that are guaranteed to offer just basic (!) functionality and nothing more. Now, in all fairness, Microsoft has traditionally upped the stakes in terms of hardware requirements with each new edition of Windows. Addend functionality, features and capabilities inherently demand increased resources. Vista is by no means an exception to this rule. Vista Home Basic will run with the same amount of system memory as Windows HPC Server 2008. But the same is not valid for the remaining editions of the operating system, which need double the RAM. "Windows Vista Home Basic: • 800-megahertz (MHz) 32-bit (x86) processor or 800-MHz 64-bit (x64) processor • 512 megabytes (MB) of system memory • DirectX 9-class graphics card • 32 MB of graphics memory • 20-gigabyte (GB) hard disk that has 15 GB of free hard disk space." "Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Business, Windows Vista Enterprise, and Windows Vista Ultimate: • 1-gigahertz (GHz) 32-bit (x86) processor or 1-GHz 64-bit (x64) processor • 1 GB of system memory • Windows Aero-capable graphics card (Note: this includes a DirectX 9-class graphics card that supports the following: a WDDM driver, Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware, 32 bits per pixel) • 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum) • 40-GB hard disk that has 15 GB of free hard disk space."